24 hours earlier, the Red Wings played a very solid game that consisted of good passing, getting good shots to the net and controlling a majority of play. Fast Forward to last night, the home opener against the Stars, and we saw a seemingly tired Red Wings squad. The team lacked energy for a good part of the night and they just seemed to be "off."
I was at the game last night. I was pumped and ready to cheer the team on for the first time since last April. Watching warm-ups was not the same without watching #5, but Mike Babcock has alluded to the fact that his team will find a way to get passed that. Well, I didn't see that last night. It was very evident that there was no number 5 playing last night based on how the defenceman were unable to effectively move the puck at times. But, given their injuries, I thought they played OKAY. The one defenseman I had a problem with last night was the guy who is supposed to be our guy now... Niklas Kronwall. He had a brilliant game against Columbus, but last night he forced passes that were not there and did not make good decisions regarding shots to take. I think he can be better and I think he will be better. One last note... Jimmy Howard was fantastic last night. Great to see him in game form. He had the second best save of the year next to King Henrik's in game 1.
Now to the main focus of today... Mike Babcock. There is no doubt that Mike Babcock is regarded as the best coach in the game of hockey today and I will not try to say otherwise. But, I have some problems with some of his coaching thus far. Brendan Smith is a 1st round pick, and is finally playing on the Wings full time, but he is only getting around 20 minutes of ice time. Quincy has had a very bad start for the Wings, yet Babcock continues to play him more than Brendan Smith. So far, Smith has been one of our best players during these 3 games. He skates very well, moves the puck efficiently and is pretty good at defending. I think Babcock needs to play Kronwall about 27 minutes a game, Smith about 24- 25 minutes a game and White about 24 minutes a game. These are our 3 best defenseman, and they need to play more.
Now, lets go to the forwards. Brunner is getting tons of chances and is doing all the right things. I think he is going to have a great year for the Wings with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. What I don't understand so far? Why the heck is Mike Babcock playing Zetterberg at center instead of Datsyuk? That is a HUGE mistake because Datsyuk is better at faceoffs, and is one of the best playmakers in the world. Babcock needs to change that now. Lastly I would just like to say I am very happy this is the final year of Dan Cleary's contract. He has little value to this Wings team anymore and he needs to go.
Specialty teams? The PK has been improving, but the powerplay looked off again last night. They are having trouble gaining the zone. When they did gain the zone, they continued to try passes that were not there. The other thing... they were standing still. There was a sequence where Datsyuk was skating along the left boards with the puck and wanted to pass across to Zetterberg, but Hank was just standing there so the pass got intercepted, and the Stars cleared the zone. Now I am not going to blame Babcock because, lets face it, they just started training camp and worked on conditioning and getting into game form... not the powerplay. Now with today and tomorrow off, Tom Renney will be able to work on the powerplay with the guys and he is a very good coach for this. I have no doubt that he will get the powerplay going.
Friday Wings play the Wild at home and I will be going to that game as well, so hopefully they get their act together. I suspect our top line will have a huge game. Datsyuk always follows up a poor performance with a strong one and now that Brunner scored, I suspect he will be more dominant. The powerplay will be stronger. And, most importantly, we are likely to get Helm and Bertuzzi back which will provide much needed depth to our 3rd line. Hopefully Mike Babcock and the boys make the proper adjustments and get rolling... Go Wings!